Follow TV Tropes


Back to the Early Installment

Go To
"Most of us are going somewhere we know. That doesn't mean we should know what to expect."
Captain America, Avengers: Endgame

With time travel, the possibilities for where (or rather, when) the characters can go are virtually endless. One time travel hotspot is the events of a previous episode, or the pilot of the season/series. As the viewers have already seen what happened, it can come off as a nostalgic re-visitation of previous events, and can serve as a celebration of the show as a whole. Or in a more story-driven note, it might involve some sort of time travel mess with the past or solve some sort of plot point in that episode.

Can serve as justification for Meet Your Early-Installment Weirdness, and lead to Once More, with Clarity or Go Back to the Source. Guaranteed to have some sort of Continuity Nod.

For video games, compare Nostalgia Level (for a single revisited level), All the Worlds Are a Stage (for a level that references or evokes multiple previous levels), and Megamix Game (when a full game references or evokes multiple previous installments).


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the manga series Blue Exorcist, protagonist Rin Okumura revisits the very first chapter while time traveling and finally sees the full story of that day that he hadn't before.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Endgame: Thanks to Thanos destroying the Infinity Stones after his infamous snap, the Avengers have to use time travel to go to the past where they still existed so they can undo the snap. To find them they go to the events of The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). We get to see them arrive during the 2012 Avengers' famous pose, and right at the start of Peter Quill going after the Power Stone.
  • Back to the Future Part II: After the 2015 Biff Tannen steals the Grey Sports Almanac and goes back in time, Doc and Marty have to go back in time to get it back and avert the Bad Future it created. They travel to the events of the first movie since that's when Old Biff wanted to give his younger self the Almanac, with their secondary concern being avoiding meeting themselves and interfering with the events of the first movie.
  • Robo-Rita's plan in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always is to travel back to the first episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and help past self kill the Power Rangers before they get their powers. The adult Rangers stop her but we do see reused footage of the astronauts about to release her in the past.
  • The Revenge Of The Old Queen was a cancelled sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show that would have climaxed with the characters travelling to the end of the first movie to save Frank. They're too late and most of them are killed by the castle blasting off.
  • The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause: Jack Frost tricks Scott/Santa into wishing he was never Santa, thus triggering the "Escape Clause" and sending them back in time to the first film when the original Santa fell off Scott's roof. Jack makes Santa fall off before Past Scott can, and steals the coat and wears it, igniting a Bad Future where Jack Frost is Santa.
  • Terminator Genisys starts as a P.O.V. Sequel telling The Terminator from Kyle Reese's point of view. But he finds the timeline altered where a T-1000 killed Sarah Connor's parents when she was a child and has since been on the run with a T-800 protecting her. We also get a Curb-Stomp Battle where the good T-800 destroys the antagonist of the original movie.


    Live-Action TV 
  • A third season episode of Andromeda had a flashback that showed there was an attempt to make Gaheris Rhade The Chosen One, but after failing, he was forced to travel back mid-Season 2 and Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • The Cold Case Season 2 premiere "The Badlands" has the team re-opening the triple homicide Lily was heading over to investigate at the start of the pilot episode.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Remembrance of the Daleks" is set in Shoreditch, London, in 1963, just weeks after the events of the very first episode, "An Unearthly Child", and involves the school that the Doctor's first human companions, Ian and Barbara, worked at. However, this is downplayed as the 20th-century events of the early serial are not themselves revisited.
    • "The Wedding of River Song" has a season-wide example. Series 6 premiere "The Impossible Astronaut" has a future version of the Doctor appear who ends up getting shot and (apparently) killed by a mysterious astronaut. The episode starts with the Doctor knowing this, and shows it from his perspective, until River Song refuses to shoot and time breaks. Eventually it's fixed, as the Doctor survives by Tricked Out Time.
    • "Twice Upon a Time" begins by recreating some scenes from the First Doctor's final story, "The Tenth Planet".
  • The Flash:
    • In the Season 2 episode, "Flash Back", Barry travels back to a Season 1 episode to get the information he needs from Wells on how for stop Zoom, Season 2's Big Bad.
    • In the Season 5 episode and the series' 100th episode, "What's Past Is Prologue", Barry and his daughter from the future travel back to various points throughout the first three seasons, including the pilot, to retrieve the components for a device that the team believes will defeat the current season's Big Bad Cicada.

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: The climax involves Harry, Ron, and Draco traveling back in time to the death of Harry's parents in order to prevent Voldemort's daughter from completing her father's victory by distracting her at the right moment. By preventing her from warning Voldemort, they ensure he is defeated by murdering Harry's parents, which sets off the long gambit that leads to his own final death.
  • A Very Potter Sequel is both a sequel and a prequel to A Very Potter Musical, since it features characters going back in time. At one point at the climax (as in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), Harry, Ron, and Hermione travel back to earlier in the play. They see earlier versions of themselves played by other actors, which causes them some confusion (although nobody else sees a difference).

    Video Games 
  • In City of Heroes: In the introduction to Ouroboros, player heroes and villains are sent to revisit Outbreak and Breakout, respectively, the original tutorial zones for both sides.
  • Dragon Quest V: Early in the game (while the hero is still a child), you meet a man looking for your father. Much later in the game, you are that man, and can meet your past self through fairy magic (and attempt to warn your father about his imminent fate, but he doesn't listen).
  • Empire Earth: The final level of the Russian campaign sends the heroes back in time to the first level, but on the opposite side as they're there to stop Grigor Stoyanovich (the campaign's initial hero) before he can turn evil. Unfortunately, his successor also had access to the time machine, and is helping Grigor by bringing in troops from the future, two or three Technology Levels ahead of you. The mission ends without telling you whether the future changed for good or bad.
  • Life Is Strange:
    • Midway through the game, Max discovers the ability to travel through photographs to earlier points in the game that were previously too far back to rewind to.
    • One ending lets Max travel back to the confrontation in the bathroom where she first discovered her powers.
  • At the beginning of the final chapter of Sakura Wars (2019), Seijuro Kamiyama and Sakura Amamiya travel back to 1930 during the time of the Battle of Tokyo. It's also where Sakura takes her idol's place in the Action Prologue when she rescues her 1930 self from the demon.
  • Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers has Roger steal an alien time-machine. The first place he visits is Ulence Flats, from Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter, the very first game of the series, complete with the original graphics, while he and the time machine remain in the then-modern graphics of the current game. This occurs after trips to Space Quest XII and X, which did not exist when SQ4 was published. (Sadly, the Space Quest series ended at VI, so we never encounter a past version of Roger.)

    Web Animation 
  • This is how Bonus Stage originally ended after a Creator Breakdown: Phil goes back to the first episode and kills his past self along with his costar, Joel, thus preventing the show from existing.
  • Pokémon Rusty: After the Bidocalypse, Rusty is sent back to the first episode to stop himself from ever going on his Pokemon journey. He succeeds, but ends up doing everything all over again and failing to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • Talking Tom And Friends does this, with Tom and Ben travelling back in time to episodes from earlier in the season.
  • In The Annoying Orange episode "Microwave Effect", the microwaving of a burrito that should never be microwaved sends Orange and the gang back in time to the events of the first episode, where they accidentally save Apple from getting knifed. However, they return to the present to see that their alteration of the past has made it so that Apple is now the ruler of the kitchen.

  • Bob and George: While most of George's time travel involves events of 8-bit Mega Man (Classic) era, George has also been involved in past arcs of the strips.
    • "Another Bad Time" has George being sent back in time to investigate the arc Mega Man turned evil to find out what really was going on. It ultimately involved the Helmeted Author up to a nefarious scheme to destroy the comic.
    • The last arc of the comic, "All Good Things", has George being shifting around the past, present and future. The past segment culminates in showing the original introduction of him and Bob arriving into the sprite comic portion in the first place.
  • In Homestuck, at the end of the Game Over timeline John gains a power that makes him unstuck in the narrative, allowing him to travel to any point in the previous events of the story. At first he travels randomly through the narrative, witnessing a number of previous events such as Jake's kiss with Dirk's decapitated head. Eventually, he learns to control his powers and travels back to the end of Act 5, saving Vriska from being killed by Terezi. He also uses his retcon powers to disperse oil from his planet throughout the narrative. Several strips in this storyline show old strips from Acts 1-5 modified in this way, and the older panels depicted here really were altered to include the oil.

    Web Videos 
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd: The "Mega Man Games" review has the Nerd being sent further in time to the events of previous episodes, first to his 2007 Independence Day episode, then to his 2006 A Nightmare On Elm Street review, before finally arriving in 2004 with his very first bad video game review, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He inspires himself to continue reviewing shitty video games in the first place.
  • Everyman HYBRID:
    • In the Mind Screw episode that is "The Property", many strange things happen to Vinnie. He's in a place that is, against all logic, a seamless combination of random rooms from his and his friend's homes in one, and then gets taken to Dr. Corenthal's ethereal sanctuary. This episode also somehow took him back in time to the events of "Hidden Videos", a video from two years prior, and he watches the events of that video happen from a distance, in shock at everything he's experiencing.
    • Inverted in "Last week / taking it back", where through some unexplainable circumstances, Evan, Jeff and Alex mysteriously end up at Baldpate mountain. Based on evidence such as the clothes they're wearing and the location they ended up in, they were actually going through the events foretold in a mysterious video called "78of76.avi", received months earlier— they'd somehow gotten footage of something that happened to them in the future, and then lived those events in "Last week / taking it back".
  • I'm a Marvel... And I'm a DC: Rorschach and Deadpool has the two go to the first episode, Deadpool wanting to travel to early episodes to mess with and roast the superheroes in the past.
  • The Nostalgia Critic: In the Christmas with the Kranks review, the Nostalgia Critic is trying to put as little effort in the review as the movie had. Santa Christ sends him back to when he started reviewing in the first place, in 2007. The two Critics don't get along, but eventually learn from one another.
  • Tribe Twelve: The Collective like to show their power over Noah by putting him through time-warp events. The most notable one happened in "The Live-Stream Incident", where he was taken back in time to two earlier episodes, "Device Analysis" and "Halloween Hotel", in which he caused some of the oddities that happened in those previous episodes, events that he, in the past, had been very confused and unsettled by.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy: The Season 10 episode "Back To The Pilot" has Stewie and Brian travel back in time to the first episode "Death Has A Shadow" so Brian can find his ball, noticing the oddities of the art style and Early-Installment Weirdness. Brian tries to stop 9-11 from happening, but it backfires.
  • Futurama
    • "The Why of Fry": The Brainspawn give Fry a chance to go back in time and stop himself being frozen, sending him under the same table he leaned against in "Space Pilot 3000". He and Nibbler talk while his past self is leaning, and Fry chooses to freeze himself by blowing his past self off the chair.
    • "Bender's Big Score": Thanks to the paradox-free time code Fry and Bender are able to travel across history, eventually leading to Fry fleeing back to the same place and hour he got frozen to avoid the scammers shooting him, and Bender brainwashed to follow after and kill him. Bender is also revealed to be the one who flash-fossilized Seymour and behind the first alien invasion in the original Time Passes Montage, while Fry falls into the same tube and is behind his pilot self defrosting in New Years' Eve 2999, pulling his pants up before freezing for another 7.95 years.
  • The Kid vs. Kat two-part episode "Kat to the Future" revolves around Coop using Kat's time machine to go back to the first episode to stop Millie from finding and adopting Kat. He succeeds, but winds up causing a Bad Future where Kat's alien race has enslaved humanity with himself as ruler and Coop's friends, family, and neighbours becoming La Résistance. Coop then has to sneak into his house turned Kat's headquarters to retrieve the time machine to stop himself from causing this future to happen.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: In "The Cutie Re-Mark", Starlight Glimmer travels back to the past to prevent the main six from becoming friends in the first place. She winds up in one of the flashbacks from "The Cutie Mark Chronicles", where she prevents young Rainbow Dash from performing her first Sonic Rainboom. Since the ripples of this change don't just prevent the main six from befriending each other, but also result in various villains conquering Equestria, Twilight Sparkle has to time-travel back to prevent Starlight's meddling.
  • Ninjago:
    • In the Season 2 episode, "Wrong Place, Wrong Time", the ninja follow Garmadon back to the pilot episodes when Garmadon travels back in time using the Mega Weapon in an attempt to prevent his son from becoming the Green Ninja.
    • In "Golden Hour", Wu has been struck by reversal time energy, and as a result, he and the Time Twins battle it out while teleporting through various moments in the show's history. These include Kai's saving Lloyd in a Season 1 episode, the lead-up to an iconic Next Tier Power-Up sequence from a Season 2 episode, and a flashback from a Season 1 episode depicting young Garmadon's Start of Darkness.
  • Phineas and Ferb: One episode sees Future-Candace go back in time to assist her past self in showing her mother that the boys were creating a roller-coaster, which was their first-ever invention seen in the series proper. Future-Candace eventually has to stop herself from doing that because it led to a Bad Future.
  • Regular Show: The episode "Bad Kiss" revolves around Mordecai and Rigby using a time machine to travel back to prevent Mordecai from eating smelly foods that makes his breath stink when trying to kiss Margaret. The plan goes haywire when the past Mordecai steals the time machine and the duo chase him through the events of past episodes.
    • The last of the three part finale has the universe initially reset to the first episode of the series "The Power", it starts off exactly as that episode begins until halfway through the opening moments, Rigby realizes they've done it all before and what has happened. Eventually he managed to restore Mordecai's memories and they use The Power to go back to the fight between Pops and Anti-Pops. Also during the said fight Pops somehow gets flung back to the student film that first features him before making his way back to the battle.
  • Samurai Jack: In the Grand Finale, Jack finally manages to return to the past from the Bad Future thanks to Ashi inheriting Aku's ability to send things through time. We see the original fight between Jack and Aku in the pilot, with the future Jack arriving about 10 seconds afterwards and annihilating the already tired and weaker Past Aku.
  • In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Waste of Time", Wander and Sylvia accidentally buy Time Orbbles, giving them the ability of Time Travel. They briefly end up in the time of "The Picnic", the show's first aired episode (although continuity-wise the third); Sylvia, fortunately, stops Wander from greeting himself.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Back To The Early Instalment


BttF 2 [School Dance]

Back to the Future 2 (1989): After a series of complicated events, Marty finds himself back at the school dance during the events of the first movie to retrieve a future sports almanac from 1950's Biff. Just as he grabs it however, he runs into Biff's goons who follow him into the dance hall. They mistake his first film self for him as he's playing on stage, thus the present Marty has to stop them from hurting his first film self and causing a paradox.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / BackToTheEarlyInstallment

Media sources: